And then there was a pandemic...
Since creating this website, I have not followed through with updating this blog. Spurred on by global events, however, I shall begin posting regular entries to document how W. and I are adjusting to the unprecedented changes in 21st century life that have resulted from the attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus [covid-19].
Although I do not anticipate that very many people will read these notes, I am choosing to write in English because I believe that at a minimum more people could read this than if it were in German. Deutsche Begriffe werden aber ab und zu verwendet, wenn angemessen.
Regarding the current situation:
It is Tuesday, March 17th, and we are living in Berlin, Germany. Months ago we had scheduled a visit to the United States starting from March 19th, but recently canceled that due to (a) the extensive restrictions on travel to the USA from the EU and (b) the suspicion that reciprocal travel restrictions into the EU would follow. They since have. As we both work from our "home office" anyway, our lifestyles have not yet been significantly impacted. That being said, we previously would work frequently in cafes or libraries so that we could get out of the apartment and are now faced with the perspective of only leaving for the mail and groceries.
Though neither of us show any symptoms, we were on the U-Bahn and riding our bikes through the city a week ago. The chance that we are carrying the virus is thus greater than 0. Moreover there are increasing restrictions on the operation of cafes, restaurants, bakeries, etc. not to mention that all cultural institutions in the city have been closed for several days now. Consequently we shall indeed cease all excursions with the exception of the aforementioned mail and grocery runs. Self-quarantine, if that is indeed the correct term.
The art situation:
Having registered as a small business in February/March, I was preparing to attend conventions where I could sell my art. The relatively small JenaCo in April was to be my first "real" tabling experience, except it has already been canceled. In the meantime I have applied for others, but even for those conventions in the summer, I question whether they will actually take place. Though I do not depend on art revenue for a living, I had invested quite a large sum of money into the basics necessary for the purpose of selling art [printer, paper, ink, tabling supplies, merch, etc.]. I do not suspect I will recoup those losses any time soon. I shall most likely have to look into online options like patreon and etsy, even though I had hoped to get a start offline.
The comic situation:
In the summer of 2019 I began work on my "Pest in Sachsen" comic. For the most part, people thought the topic was interesting albeit weird and creepy, if not outright disturbing or morbid. Though no one reacted negatively to what I had already sketched out, the lukewarm reception that I received while pitching the idea was not the most encouraging. During the fall and winter I was busy with various (failed) job applications as well as academic research projects, and I didn't really miss working on a project that seemed so niche. Starting in February, however, I went full-on into con preparation mode, and while I completed a number of small projects, it did begin to feel as though I was producing art for consumption rather than for meaning.
And then there was a pandemic...
I can no longer think of my Pest in Sachsen project as niche. I strongly assert that the Black Death and Coronavirus should not be compared. Nevertheless, I would also like to recognize that the social anxiety resulting from the outbreak of the coronavirus as well as the immense social, political and economic consequences that are shaping, perpetuating and in turn being shaped by this social anxiety necessitate cultural reflection. This anxiety is a force to be seized so that we can contemplate other times of disruption in history. Humans, I believe, are either unwilling or unable to contemplate the fully unprecedented. Even if one says that the changes instigated by Covid-19 are unprecedented, this assertion is then often contextualized with statements like "in the history of the BRD", since "Black Monday", since the "Spanish Flu". We seem to live between Zeitschichten as Reinhart Koselleck theorized: even when we experience something singular, these events take place within structures or by virtue of institutions that are recurrent and we thus make sense of the singular in terms of the recurrent. We are sandwiched between the now, our lived pasts, and what we think we understand about the distant, unlived past.
I do not want to further rehash historical-philosophical aspects from my bio-page. The simple point is this: now that I will be secluded in the apartment due to forces beyond my control for an indefinite period of time, I will dedicate myself to the Pest in Sachsen project.
Kairos has come.
Though I doubted whether I could convey to others what I find so compelling about the experience of war and plague in 17th-century Saxony (because, when I put it like that, how could that ever sound mainstream?), I have to take this chance. If there would ever be an audience willing to give this material a serious look, it's the audience that has been living in quarantine or isolation, fearful of contracting the virus or of falling terribly ill from it or of spreading it or of not even knowing if one is an asymptomatic carrier.
Not knowing. I want to explore the fear of not knowing.